There’s more than meets the eye when it’s staring directly at a computer screen for hours on end. Maintaining a physically and emotionally healthy remote workspace is something worth caring about; it protects your body and keeps you productive.
Here are some tips to help you care for your body, and improve your mood at work!
Posture vs. Gear
Since you’re the one picking out your office equipment, your health is in your hands. And maybe in your pocket, haha.
You don’t have to sit to work. In fact, there’s a tonne of research that shows that sitting isn’t very healthy and that standing can help productivity. But we both know that standing all day is crazy. You shouldn’t stand throughout work or sit either.
If you’re going with the chair, get one that supports your natural body posture.
They’re called ergonomic chairs (if you didn’t already know). Here’s a guide to picking a good one for your home office. They help to relieve the pressure of sitting that accumulates on your back. But you still have to stand up and move a little every hour.
You need a desk to work on (duh?). I know I said it before, but I mean a special kind of desk. The one that’s just the right height.
It’s super important for your health. It should complement your body’s height, and your chair too.
People who like to work both standing and seated opt for the adjustable desk. But they don’t have those at the average coffee shop.
So if you’re taking work with you, here’s how you can adapt:
- Sit in your chair with your feet flat and firmly on the floor. Then keep your elbows and knees at right angles, adjusting the seat & armrests. Observe any tension in your body. Use pillows or cushions to provide support for your back.
- If your feet aren’t touching the floor, put some paper reams underneath. If the table is too high, opt for an additional keyboard & mouse and a pull-out drawer.
- Keep your monitor at arm’s length. Elevate it to eye level, or very close to it. If you use a laptop, get a laptop stand or some more boxes and reams. If you use a tablet or a phone, don’t look down on it, literally. When you spend hours looking down, you create tension in your neck.
- Check out this video for more tips and a bonus; posture exercises.
- Get a smartwatch with fitness settings or a fitness band to remind you to move about, stretch, drink water, and all that good stuff.
According to Autonomous, lighting has a tremendous impact on productivity, workplace well-being, and preventing Computer Vision Syndrome (blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches).
Lighting is strong enough to improve your mood, productivity, and error rate. Poor lighting can cause eye fatigue, reduced focus, colour selection errors, and headaches.
Here’s a video from this Cornell professor if you don’t believe me:
Because our brains use the temperature and colour of light to decide our physical states, you’ll need a new perspective on lighting.
According to studies, you’re gonna need 300–500 lux of light in your workspace. A lot of that should leverage on natural lighting, so you can get better sleep. Take care of the positioning, the bulb lumen, the brightness, the softness, and the temperature of the light. The easiest way is with adjustable LED lights.
Still, as much as possible, try to face a window to let all that sunlight in.
If you work at night, set your devices to night mode and dark mode, to reduce the strain on your eyes. It also prevents your eyes from sending the wrong message on whether it’s day or night to your brain.
Backlit keyboards help you see your keyboards clearly if, unlike me, you haven’t memorised the position of the keys on the keyboard, hehe.
Let less light enter your eyes at night. Haven’t you seen the sky at night when the stars are out? I’m sure it wasn’t blinding.
Finally, make sure the contrast between the lights and your screens is moderate. Light tends to reflect from our screens, so arrange your lights to provide multiple, controllable sources of this life energy — but not in front of your screen.
Here’s this guide with more tips to improve your lighting situation.
Look & Feel
I found this interesting hypothesis on Work Design’s blog, called biophilia. It shows that there’s a natural human attraction to other living things and nature, and connecting with them improves the quality of our lives.
More than two handfuls of surveys prove that natural daylight is the most important part of workspace design. And just having plants around your workspace reduces your stress by 30–60%, and increases your productivity.
When space is limited, consider building a plant wall. Watering your plants could become part of your morning routine to get you in the mindstate for work.
Because plants need sunlight, it’ll motivate you to let more light in. Sitting close to a window will give you the eye breaks you need from time to time.
- You’ll also get cleaner air because plants fart oxygen.
To really lift the mood of your workspace and get you pumped for performance as often as possible, you should include reflections of yourself and your tastes in your workspace.
Hang pictures, motivational quotes and art that make your workspace feel personal. You could even get a mural done if you own the walls. Work should be enjoyed, or it’s gonna be a struggle.
Make your space feel welcome and comfortable — but remember to keep it as organised and clutter-free as possible.
Sounds & Scents
You know how great it feels to work with motivating music in the background. No? You should definitely try it. Create a work playlist if you like, or use someone else’s. The internet is full of them.
I prefer music on speakers because of ear fatigue, and it feels like my brain has more space to bounce around my workspace with ideas. But that’s a luxury for when you’re alone.
Also, when I want background noise, I use Noisli. It works for browsers and smartphones. It used to be free, but now you’ve gotta pay some $ if you want more than 90 minutes of background noise per day.
But I bet there are channels on YouTube with free background noise. The scientists say white noise and ambient noise helps focus, so you could just do a quick search.
I also listen to podcasts while I work. Not for the content (distraction), but for the voice and audio quality. You could try it if you like, with the volume turned low.
Now for an exciting experiment, use scented candles and oils to make your workspace feel more comfortable and zen. Since our memories are strongly linked to our sense of smell, we can create good work habits around unique fragrances. Namaste. (No, you stay.)